The top 10 issues' heading into spring ball...
- QB - Can Rod Rutherford take over the position and prove he can affectively run Walt Harris's style of offense??? Will Pat Hoderny push for the starting position and/or prove he can be a reliable backup?
Answer: Rod held on to the starting position. He is still a work in progress, but he did show he can make some tough throws and make things happen running with the ball. He needs to be careful and to not force things, but he should look at lot better when he has Bynes and Stephens back healthy, plus when incoming blue-chip recruits like Princell, Fitzgerald and Gaines come in the fall. Lot of work still needs to be done here though.
- WR - Who will step up and replace Antonio Bryant and RJ English??? Will Rosie Bynes and Joe Stephens step up and join Lamar Slade as a solid threesome?
Answer: Although Bynes and Stephens didn't play in the spring game due to minor injuries, both were improved over a year ago. Marcus furman was officially moved back to WR and he proved at the spring game that he could make a tough catch in traffic. He has great speed and good hands and should be able to make some noise there. Lamar Slade was solid last year and should be the leader of the WR core. This group will need to continue working hard over the summer to improve.
- Safety - Who will win the two starting positions that Ramon Walker and Mark Ponko have filled for the last few years??? Humphries, Gilliard, Urschler, Lay, Horne, etc.
Answer: This turned into a mess. Both Humphries and Urschler tore ACL'sAnd will likely be out the entire season. Gilliard and Morris are the front-runners to start, but they will be pushed by Ferguson and JJ Horne, among a host of others this coming fall. Both safety positions are up in the air at this time, but there is talent available, just not any experience.
- Defensive Tackle - Who will win the starting and backup positions??? Will Tyre Young be moved to linebacker? Will young players such as Stephens, Holthaus, Crochunis, Banner and Spencer step up and win positions? Will McMurray develop into the player that he can be?
Answer: Coach Junko said that Tyre Young's play is like nigh and day compared to last year. Well, he was pretty damm good last year, so that's great to hear. Darrell McMurray will most likely start along aide of him, but he was held out of spring ball to get 100% healthy for the fall. Vince Crochunis Won the Ed Conway award for most improved defense player from last season So that was also another positive sign from the spring. Dan Stephens looked much improved in the spring game and Charles Spencer also showed he is a talent. Throw in Troy Banner and Jake Holthaus, and this should be a much-improved group.
- Linebacker Depth - Can Pitt find some much needed depth to compliment the outstanding starting three??? Will Dipre and Weekley step up? Will former RB candidates make the move to LB successfully?
Answers: I think this was another position that had its questions answered successfully. Malcolm Postell and Mike Jemison have made the moves over from RB in fine form. Malcolm should be the 2nd team rush linebacker behind Brian Beinecke and Mike Jemison will push Monroe Weekley for the 2nd team Strong side linebacker position behind Lou Moore. Weekley and Dipre continued to improve, but they are both young and still need time to develop. Malcolm also was selected for the Ed Conway award for most improved defensive player.
- Will Brandon Miree win the starting RB position or will Raymond Kirkley or Marcus Furman improve on their very good play as true freshmen from a year ago??? Can an unknown like Johnson, Murphy or Abdullah win it?
Answer: This question was answered in an extremely positive manner. Brandon Miree looked outstanding this spring and Tim Murphy looked very, very impressive also, and should get a lot of playing time this season. James Johnson was dismissed from the team, and Marcus Furman was moved to WR, but this group had an excellent performance this spring. Abdur Abdullah Was also impressive. A trio of Miree, Murphy and Kirkley this falls should be outstanding and there should be one hell of a battle for the starting position this fall. Any of those 3 can easily win the starting job. Most likely all 3 will play a lot.
- Will Walt change the offense this year? Will he feature a running attack with Rutherford, Polite and Kirkley, Furman, Miree and company or will he continue with his west coast style passing offense?
Answer: This is still a work in progress, but our offense should feature a strong running game and passing to two outstanding tight ends, plus take advantage of Rutherford's running ability. He will also have a talented group Of WR's to work with this fall and we should at least expect a solid passing game.
- Can Dustin Picciotti return to his old form of being a blue chip All-American recruit? He has the size, speed and strength to be a big time player. If he is finally healthy, he could make a difference in the offense.
Answer: YES!!! He was outstanding all spring and has a chance to push for the starting job. He layed out crushing blocks all spring that really impressed all those that have taken in the practices. He and Polite will both play a lot and should be the best fullback tandem in the conference if not the country.
- Can Josh Lay win a starting Safety position??? He is a great talent, and was a 2-way star at prep school. Will he be able to learn the defense enough this spring to win a starting job???
Answer: Josh was put at corner this spring and was very impressive. He was a leading tackler in the spring game and it is up in the air as to if he will move to safety.
- What young players that have so far spent their time on the scout teams will break through this spring by impressing the coaches in scrimmages. Players to consider are Thomas Smith and Kevin Harris at defensive end, Joe Dipre and Monroe Weekley at linebacker, Dale Williams on the offensive line, Eric Gill at tight end, Miree, Murphy, Johnson, Abdullah at RB, McCray and Morris at DB, and many others!